Nov 30, 2017

Advent Links for Teens and Tweens

We have observed a sort of Advent for many years around here.

Advent fun

our Advent calendar

But as the kids get older, they need deeper, richer traditions that lead them to Christ. So last year we did this:

Advent Wreath

And we will be doing it again, only this year we are using Behold the Lamb of God which I found on my Kindle sort of by accident.

We will also be doing (for the first time ever) a Jesse Tree, Advent Morning Time Plans, a Jesse Tree building challenge with Lego and possibly 25 Days to Handel's Messiah


Nov 28, 2017

Christmas Around the World Review

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that I can tweak and squeeze our schedule around to include some fun whenever I want or need to. I especially like to do this during the month of December and add a lot of different Christmas themed learning.

This year, one of the ways we are doing that is by using Christmas Around the World study from Awe-Filled Homemaker. We were sent a free PDF of this study for a review. We received a version of the study with primary lines, a version with regular lines and a PDF of a passport with a "stamp" from each country visited.



This study is 76 pages long, lasts 24 days (there are 24 lessons), and covers 21 different countries. There is also a lesson on Advent, one on St. Nicholas and one on the Birth of Christ.

Each lesson contains a page of information on Christmas in that particular country. There is also a page of questions about that info for your family to answer after reading. Finally, there is a coloring page and often a craft.




This is a fabulous study for young kids. I would have loved this when my kids were all in early elementary! Since my kids are older (two young teens and two preteens). we are using it more as a jumping off place to deeper study. I will assign lessons to each kid. When it is their turn, they will read the information aloud to the rest of us and/or be responsible for researching and providing additional information for us.

When they were younger, we would have gone over the questions as a group with me as a scribe. But at their ages, I will have them use the questions as a competitive test. Who can get the most answers correct?

Again, as younger kids, they would have been all about the coloring pages! Even now, I have kids that will love to exercise their creative side with the coloring pages and fun crafts.

They would have also loved the Passport! The stamps are a creative and fun!




For younger kids, this simple format is more than ample for a fun but educational Christmas study. However, I think, since my kids are older, we will add some things to it.

I would like to add a booklist, although that is an area of weakness for me, so I kinda wish one had been included. Just for fun. :)

I will definitely add

  • required internet research. 
  • a bit of map work involving them finding the countries on our globe
  • maybe even printing them off a map and having them color and label the countries
  • learning to say "Merry Christmas" in the various languages

For elementary aged kids, or younger, this would be the perfect amount of information and work load for an excellent study of Christmas Around the World.


Nov 24, 2017

Crew Review Top Ten

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 We have come to the end of another Crew Review year! So once again we are picking our favorite products that we reviewed this year. As a Crew, we get to vote on our favorites by category. But my family also chooses our top picks of what we got to explore this year. That's what I'm posting here.

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 We reviewed 42 products in all this year. But the kids only reviewed probably a third of those each because they are pretty spread out right now. Abbie is in elementary, the boys are middle school and Kaytie is high school. Daniel worked on some elementary products and Nate did some high school reviews and we all worked on the ones that covered all age spans.


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Abbie's Top Seven
1 Captain Absolutely
2 Imagine
3 Planet 316
4 Drive Thru History
5 Crafty Classroom Activity Bundle
Thin Stix
7 Let's Go Geography




Daniel's Top Five
1 Innovators Tribe
2 Typing Coach
3 Creating a Masterpiece
4 In the Reign of Terror and Captain Bayley's Heir
5 Drive Thru History



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Nate's Top Six
1 Pencil Grip
2 Drive Thru History
3 In the Reign of Terror
4 Thin Stix
5 Unauthorized
6 Compuscholar


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Kaytie's Top Ten
1 Illuminating Literature
2 Captain Absolutely
3 Thin Stix
4 Bessie's Pillow
5 Unauthorized
6 Creating A Masterpiece
7 Mapelle Films
8 In the Reign of Terror
9 Shepherd, Potter, Spy and the Star Namer
10 Drive Thru History


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My Top Ten
10 Carole P. Roman's book series
Captain Bayley's Heir
8 Lightening Lit
7 Apologia Marine Biology
6 Super Teacher Worksheets
5 Let's Go Geography
4 Homeschool in the Woods Passport Project Middle Ages
3 Drive Thru History
2 Illuminating Literature
1 Innovators Tribe


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Our Blue Ribbon Award winner is Drive Thru History!!!! It made the favorites list of all five of us!

You can find out what the Crew as a whole chose for their favorites on the Crew Blog Blue Ribbon Awards.



Nov 20, 2017

Thankful Post 1/2


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On Facebook I am doing a Thankfulness Challenge for the entire month of November. It's really simple. I just post every day a short bit about something I am thankful for. I'm going to post them here in two posts.

November Challenge:

Day 1:

I am so thankful for my family's amazing friends. In our time of crisis they say, "If you need something let us know..." and they mean it!

They have brought cookies, offered prayers, listened to our tragic tale, expressed love and concern, given us rides, answered every, "could you?" with a swift and resounding "yes".

And they don't even know how much I have prayed for friends like these.

Day 2:

I am thankful for God's provision. And for His omniscience. He is never surprised by our crisis or our needs.


Day 3:

I am thankful for Autumn. I am thankful for this beautiful weather! It was a gorgeous morning! I love fog! And a beautiful afternoon! I am so loving all the stunning colors in the trees all over the place. I love the crisp air and the deep blue sky. I love pumpkins and apples and scarecrows. And best of all is the anticipation of the holiday season coming up. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and BIRTHDAYS GALORE!!!!

Day 4:

 I am thankful for these four beautiful faces! I am thankful that they are happy and healthy and safe. I'm thankful that it is so easy to be a super proud mama. They keep life exciting and interesting and make sure there is always something to laugh about. They are my greatest achievement. I always wanted to be a mommy but being a mom to these kids is amazing beyond my wildest dreams.



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Day 5:

I am thankful for Grace and Mercy and second chances. I'm thankful that mistakes are opportunities for learning and are forgiven by God every day.

Day 6:

I am thankful for laughter. It's not only good medicine but I strongly believe their ability to make me laugh is what has kept my kids alive all these years.

Day 7:

I'm thankful for beauty. I'm thankful that if you really look for it, you can find it in the most unexpected of places.

Day 8:

I'm thankful for popcorn and chocolate and fried chicken and all the yummy foods!

Day 9:

I'm thankful for technology and smart phones. Because, quite frankly, without that handy map on my phone I would be sooooo lost all the time! I usually get lost even with its help. But without it, my poor husband would have to come track me down every single time I left the house! Or I would just have to sleep on the street wherever darkness found me every night.

Day 10:

I'm thankful for hope. We live in the Fridays, but Sunday is coming!

Day 11:

I'm thankful for holidays. I love special days full of traditions and festivities. I love making memories with my family!

Day 12:

I am thankful for Jesus. It hardly needs to be said. It's hard not to be grateful to Someone like Him who gave up everything to give you something you could never deserve, much less earn.

Day 13:

I am thankful for books and the amazing authors who write them.

Day 14:

I'm thankful for my kids' friends. They have a knack for picking good ones. I love that their friends are great people that life my kids up. They are alive with encouragement, inspiration, passionate ideas, and laughter.

Day 15:

I'm thankful for music. I can't play an instrument and I can't sing, but I can enjoy music anyway! I especially love the old hymns. They are so full of good, solid, theology and praise for God.

Nov 15, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Illuminating Literature

Literature was always my very favorite subject. I love reading books and I love talking/ thinking/ writing about them. My Lit. classes in college were so much fun! Since my oldest two kids are book-lovers just like me, I knew I wanted their high-school lit courses to be just as enjoyable. So I looked high and low for a really great curriculum. But I couldn't find one. So I gave up and cobbled together my own program. And it was working well enough until...

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We were asked to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson. I handed it over to Kaytie, my fourteen year old 9th grader to work on for a few weeks.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

This is a high school literature course that will earn your child a full lit. credit. Your child will read five classic books, a Shakespearean play, and an assortment of short stories throughout the course. The books are sold separately but all the short stories are either in the textbook or a link is provided to an ebook. 

The materials consist of:
  • Teacher's Manual
  • Student Textbook
  • Quiz and Answer Manual
  • Online Quizzes 
  •  Novel Notebook

The Teacher's Guide answers to the questions in the Student Textbook. But it also has grading guides, course objectives, a schedule and suggestions for teaching the course to a class or more informally as a Book Club. 

The Student Textbook is the heart of the curriculum. It is a thick paperback book and is intended to be consumable. My daughter did not write in it, however, she hated struggling with the book and simultaneously trying to fit her answers into the too-small spaces. I think it would be a lot more conducive to writing directly in the book if it were spiral bound and she could open it and lay it flat. She preferred, however, to type her answers into the computer and send them to my email for grading. 

The Textbook has nine chapters that are divided up into bite-sized lessons. Each chapter covers a book except for the chapter on the short stories, and the first chapter on one short story. There are a couple of lessons to be done before the book is read, assignments to do while reading the book, and activities to complete after reading the book. There is a suggested schedule based on a week's worth of work, not by days. 

The work required is not comprehension questions, but short answer questions such as "How do the following characters respond to conflict? What does it reveal about their character?"; discussion questions such as,  "Do you feel sorry for anyone in this novel?" and questions to consider in real life such as, "How can you tell if you are being deceived?" In short, questions that make your student think and write. 

Literary terms and devices are taught as they appear in the novels. You can see the complete list of what they learn as well as other free samples of the materials on the website. 

The Quiz and Answer Manual has quizzes and answers. :) 

There are three quizzes for the books and two quizzes for the short stories. These are "Yes, I Read It", "Literary Terms", and the third one for the books is "Opinion Survey". These have short answers or multiple choice questions. 

All of the answers are in the back of the book. 

The Online Quizzes are the same quizzes that are in the book. Some people just find it easier for their student to take them online. I loved it because I didn't have to grade it! A report of the quiz was emailed to her and she would then forward it on to me. So I could easily see how she did on each quiz and quickly record it.

There are links and passwords to the quizzes in the Textbook. Kaytie found it easy to access the quizzes and she enjoyed taking them.  

The Novel Notebook is a PDF download that comes with the course. It adds pizzazz to the material. The work is assigned in the Textbook and consists of fun assignments like those in the picture below. I snapped this picture before she did her work to keep her privacy. 


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When we started Characters in Crisis, we fully intended to use it for the review period and then set it back on the shelf for later. We were not unhappy with the course I had written and it was working well for us. So this was just going to be a short break to fulfill Crew obligations and maybe enjoy doing something different for short time. Therefore, I did not have her start at the beginning. She had just finished reading Silas Marner so I handed her the Student Textbook and said, "Do the section on Silas."

So she did. And she loved it. She was able to work mostly independently. She followed the instructions in the textbook, took the online quizzes, wrote a fun short story, and learned so much. She told me that she didn't really like or understand Silas Marner until after she had worked her way through the chapter in Characters in Crisis. The questions and quizzes, activities and information opened her mind to what the book was about and what it was trying to say. That, in my opinion, is the highest praise anyone could give a Literature course. If it helps my kid love an otherwise dull book and helps them dig interesting ideas out of a yawning brain, then it's a course I can thoroughly recommend!

The more she worked in Characters in Crisis, the more we realized this was exactly the lit course that I looked for for years. It taught Literary Terms and Devices. It taught from whole books and not excerpts. It expected deep thinking and full answers, not just comprehension and vocabulary. It engaged her, fired her imagination and helped her grasp and enjoy the themes and concepts in the books she read. 

Kaytie:
I thought this was an awesome program. Sharon Watson is funny and serious at the same time. She has a gift for writing and that's part of why I enjoyed reading this so much. The work is split up into easy to handle portions. The questions that were asked made me really think about this book, and I feel like I got way more out of the book than I would have if I had just read it and written a book report on it. I especially liked the options she gave us at the end of the chapter for immersion. There were several easy, simple ones, and several harder, more challenging ones. She took multiple learning types into account: there were hands-on options, writing options, and watching/listening options. Reading each chapter was simple and fun, and I enjoyed doing the work as well. I recommend this program to anyone who wants to get more out of literature or simply likes reading.

So not only are we going to set aside what I had originally planned and do Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis instead, we will more than likely do her other course when we are finished with this one!

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Nov 12, 2017

Our Week in Pictures

Kaytie will be fifteen in January, which means she will officially start Driver's Ed. So this weekend, she unofficially started parking lot driving. She did amazingly well! She didn't freak me out even once. There was one time I said, in an anxious sort of voice, "You do have a break, you know, you might want to consider using it now."

But mostly she was serene and confident.


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One day Jeeves, the life sized plastic penguin came to school. Langston was amazed by him. 

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The girls had a birthday party/ sleepover, and Dad was working out of town, so I took the boys out for supper. Daniel got car sick on the less-than-ten-minute drive. What was up with that??? As you can see, he quickly recovered as soon as he was out of the car.

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The waitress totally underestimated how old they are and gave them kid menus. But they took it in stride. They ordered off my menu, then they made these cars and took them home. Later, when the girls asked where they came from, Daniel told them he had ordered it off Amazon. hahaha.

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And I finally figured out why the kids can never find their shoes when I found Abbie's in the act of walking off down the hall. hahaha!

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